The first varsity football game on the Kenai Peninsula this season amid COVID-19 safety precautions saw the Homer Mariners trounce the visiting Seweard Seahawks 48-8.
The event drew fans to Homer High School on a dreary and overcast Saturday. Some wore the masks required by the school for spectators — others didn’t. Athletic Director Chris Perk said that’s something the school needs to work on going forward, but that with about 200 spectators, the venue was not in danger of going over capacity. Right now the school is working with a number of about 250 as the maximum, Perk said.
Homer sophomore Carter Tennison contributed heavily to the victory Saturday, running for 214 yards and throwing for 126. He scored four of Homer’s six touchdowns, and went five for 13 on passes.
Senior Sly Gaona caught five passes for 126 yards, and contributed a touchdown.
The game started slow, with no points on the scoreboard in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Mariners came alive and racked up 40 points, before making another touchdown in the third.
Seward’s one answering touchdown also came in the third quarter, when Jordan Sewell scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Head Coach Justin Zank said it definitely looked like a first game of the season. The team was working out kinks in the first quarter, but he was happy with how the athletes played in the second and third.
“I thought once we got settled, definitely in that second quarter, we started clicking,” Zank said.
From an event standpoint, Zank said he was happy to see a decent number of fans come out to support the football team. The booster club helped the school make sure the event ran smoothly, he said.
“We were excited to host,” Perk said of the game, which was Homer’s first home spectator event in five months.
The volleyball and cross-country running teams have also been competing, but without crowds.
“And of course it was our first event with fans in our COVID era here,” Perk said of the game.
Most fans appeared to adhere to the school’s requirement of face coverings during the game, Perk said. However, not everyone brought them and several people began taking their masks off as soon as the game was over, before they left the facility, he said.
In future games, Perk said more announcements will be made over the loudspeaker to remind people to keep their face coverings on.
Another aspect of the game that has some kinks to work out is the live streaming. The school has its own YouTube page where sporting events are streamed for those watching at home. Unfortunately, Saturday’s game was plagued with connectivity issues, which Perk said the school is going to work on for next time.
“I think it’s a learning opportunity and we definitely found some things that we need to fix for our next home game,” he said.
Still, Perk said the school was grateful to be able to host spectator sports again. And Zank said the team was excited for the opportunity to play. They players want as much of a season as possible, he said.
Homer sports teams will start getting more of a season now that sport programs for schools on the central peninsula have started back up again. Previously shut down because that region was in the high-risk zone for community spread of COVID-19, sports re-started in Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski on Monday.
As a result, Soldotna teams are being worked into the Homer schedule — that’s not a team Homer usually gets to face, Perk said.
The Mariners will travel this Saturday up to Soldotna for a football game against the Stars. The junior varsity team plays at 11 a.m. and the varsity at 2 p.m.
“First, we’re excited for the opportunity to be able to play them,” Zank said. “Any time we can play a team of that caliber, we would like to do so.”
Zank described SoHi as “an incredibly disciplined” and very well coached team. If Homer wants to be competitive, they’ll have to work hard at minimizing mistakes, he said.
“We can’t have five dropped passes that we had against Seward,” Zank said. “… We have to be extremely sharp on Saturday.”